Setting an Innovative Tone

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March 12, 2021



By Chase Miller, Aaron Detmer, Kay Townsend, Kevin McNutt

A main theme woven throughout the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) project was the need to create a collaborative, flexible environment to accommodate the organization’s ever-changing, ever-advancing life sciences applied research.

IBRI is the primary tenant in the first building of the emerging 16 Tech urban innovation district just northwest of downtown Indianapolis.  BSA’s planning and design challenge was to provide integration and connectivity between the lab, office, and shared spaces for the workflow that had to happen between these zones. Spaces that promote collaboration and informal interaction between occupants is a paramount contributor to the success of their research.

Also instrumental to the client was the creation of visual connectivity and transparency between the outdoors and the interior of the building. IBRI’s goal and desire was to create a hub of innovation that welcomed partners, collaborators, innovation park tenants and the community. The client’s vision for the common space within the new building, as executed by BSA, was to be open for individuals to interact both formally and informally.

In the words of IBRI Chief Operating Officer Jay McGill, it needed to be “…a place where collisions happen.” In addition to serving the applied research needs of scientists, IBRI’s new hub needed to be poised to serve as a venue for hosting events, meeting colleagues and friends, and a space that promoted interaction that inspires innovation.

Understanding Researchers’ Needs
The project’s key design-related challenge was to understand the nature of the life sciences research that is and will take place within the walls of the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute. As the program solidified, space initially envisioned for the vivarium was reallocated to serve as flexible laboratory space. As time went on, that scope changed to require shell research space and more.

Given that IBRI was a new entity fully engaged in recruiting a host of principal investigators (PIs), BSA’s challenge in the laboratory planning was to initiate detailed conversations with each PI. Each PI is responsible for preparing, executing, and administering research grants to ensure that individualized space and function needs were met through design, yet flexible enough to reconfigure the lab spaces as a growing number of PIs and their research needs evolved. BSA’s challenge of designing spaces capable of adapting to changes in people, science, equipment, technologies, and more while staying within a prescribed budget was palpable.

Designing to meet each PI’s requirements and specifications while also executing the IBRI’s many joint venture stakeholders’ vision proved a challenge that BSA embraced and exceeded.

Additionally, available space on both the 2nd and 3rd floors was reserved as incubator space, where startups could quickly start their research and business with ease by having access to shared utilities and resources, such as the autoclaves, animal holding rooms, equipment rooms, etc.

Blending Security with Openness
Designing a space open to the public while protecting the proprietary discoveries presented the team with a unique challenge.  Research was put on display on the first floor to generate excitement but also securely guarded on the second and third floors.  The two-story space at the second-floor entry welcomes visitors into the workplace.  Conference rooms were outfitted with cloaking technology film, allowing the person passing by to see activity in the room while protecting the sensitive materials on monitors.  Research labs were semi-transparent with decorative glass patterns that let light filter through while obscuring the research teams and their work.

Integrating natural elements into the building was another design challenge.  The labs needed appropriate finishes for a clean environment, but the workplace needed to provide users a reprieve.  The wood elements, natural carpet patterns, and views to the outdoors allow a visual break and place to think, create and relax.  Additionally, it was important to the research teams that their workstations be adjacent to the lab.  The connectivity allows them to stay part of the research while completing focused work nearby.

Building Systems Engineering
IBRI’s headquarters is located within a developer-owned, multi-tenant building whose design and engineering meet distinct laboratory needs of several different lessees.

BSA engineers selected and designed building systems, that not only achieve the owner’s energy efficiency goals, but that also enable the developer-owner to monitor individual tenants’ energy usage and pass those costs on. The building systems design also allows each tenant to monitor its own usage, to keep usage and corresponding costs as lean as possible to extend the life cycle of their facilities.

Design and engineering of the building envelope is six percent better than code minimum. This was based on construction materials and the quality of glazing installed. Integrating a high percentage of glazing on the building promotes daylighting and visibility to the outdoors as the envelope design performs better than code. This proved to be an important owner’s objective that the BSA team met. Users will benefit from the added glass on the building envelope and the building itself will perform better over its full life expectancy.

Whereas developer-owned buildings are typically engineered with all-electric utilities systems that initially cost less to build but are a more expensive and less sustainable solution long-term, IBRI’s headquarters facility is heated via a condensing hot water boiler system which reduces energy consumption by $50k/year. Domestic hot water for the facility was also generated using condensing gas-fired equipment to save as much energy as possible.

Indoor air quality was another key project goal specific to IBRI’s building systems. BSA engineers designed an Aircuity® system to optimize ventilation and increase occupants’ productivity. Continually monitoring the air quality in the labs, the system’s sensors reduce airflow when deemed safe to save energy and increase airflow to purge the lab in the event of a chemical spill or off-gassing. Aircuity® offers IBRI nearly $30,000 in yearly energy cost savings while also providing a safer laboratory environment.

Successful attainment of the project’s design goals empowers the client to lead the science of the future with an agile work environment. The modern design and state-of-the-art technology, paired with its prime location within 16 Tech, positions IBRI to attract top talent, enable collaboration, grow its organization and immerse itself in the vibrant life sciences innovation ecosystem that is focusing on improving human health for all.